It’s a big concern for parents. Often, summer camp might be one of the first times a child is away from home, and you want to make sure that their stay at camp is successful, enjoyable, and healthy. So what do you do about homesickness?
(1) Don’t make a big deal about it. If your child knows that you are worried, they will worry. Talk to them before they come to camp. Talk about the activities that they will be able to do. Tell them how excited you are for them to go. Ask them questions. “What do you think will be your favorite thing?” “What kind of food do you hope they have?” Get on the Camp Ithiel website with your child and do some exploring together. Look at pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Read through last year’s summer blog posts. Check out bios of staff members. Focus on all the positive parts of camp. That way, your child will focus on these things, too. It’s totally normal to experience homesickness at camp, and our staff are trained in how to deal with it. Preparing for homesickness, though, starts at home when you encourage and uplift your camper.
(2) Practice being away from home with short stays before they come to camp. Have your child stay overnight at their grandparent’s or a friend’s house. These short getaways will teach them that they can be independent and survive without the comforts of home, and also that you will return to get them when the night is over. Make it a little more “camp-like” by letting them pitch a tent in the backyard or in the living room. Don’t promise things that can’t happen. Don’t tell them that they can call home or that you’ll come and pick them up if they don’t like it. Promises like this actually make it harder for your child to adjust at camp (because all they will focus on is the “out” that you have provided) and go against the general practices of camp. Trust the staff. We are all trained and have a lot of experience in dealing with homesickness.
(3) Make sure your child is informed and prepared. Most often, homesickness arises because of a different need. If your child is afraid of the dark and can’t find their flashlight, they may become homesick and want to go home, not because they aren’t enjoying camp, but because they are missing that one item that will help them feel more comfortable. For this reason, we encourage parents to have their camper help pack their own bag. Make sure they know where to find their flashlight and extra batteries. Show them the pocket where you put their special stuffed animal or favorite sunglasses. Let them bring things from home that will help make their stay at camp more comfortable (but please don’t pack candy or food). Tell them to ask their counselor for anything that they forgot and camp will see how best to help fill in that need.
(4) If you are really worried, have your child choose a friend to come with them. Many campers come to camp on their own and don’t know anyone. They meet new friends and counselors at camp and have wonderful experiences. However, if you think your child may struggle to come out of their shell when surrounded by new people, register them for camp with a friend so that they have someone familiar by their side to encourage them and make them feel more comfortable.
Sending your child to camp can often be more difficult on the parents than it is on the camper. You want them to have fun and be successful, to make lots of friends, try new things, and have the time of their life. We know that, and we want to do everything we can to make sure that happens. We have a few things in place as well to ease your own anxiety. You can like our Facebook page. We will post photos and updates throughout your child’s week at camp. Be sure to come back and visit the summer blog as well. During the summer, we post at least one update each week about what the kids are doing. Pray for your child while they are with us, and trust us to take care of them and guide them through this wonderful, totally awesome experience called summer camp!